|-13 L Westwood (Eng); -11 B DeChambeau (US); -10 J Thomas (US), D Ghim (US); -9 P Casey (Eng), J Rahm (Spa), B Harman (US)|
|Selected others:-8 S Garcia (Spa); M Fitzpatrick (Eng); -4 J Spieth (US); Level D Johnson (US)|
Lee Westwood will go head-to-head with Bryson DeChambeau once again with the Englishman leading by two going into the Players Championship final round.
Westwood, chasing a first PGA Tour title in 11 years, moved to 13 under par with a bogey-free four-under 68.
DeChambeau, who edged Westwood to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week, shot a 67 to finish on 11 under on a scintillating day at TPC Sawgrass.
Justin Thomas had set the clubhouse lead at 10 under par with a superb 64.
England’s Paul Casey, world number two Jon Rahm and American Brian Harman are one further back.
Matt Fitzpatrick headed out in the final pair alongside compatriot Westwood but endured a difficult third round, finding the water three times and trading four birdies with four bogeys to remain at eight under.
He sits alongside Spain’s Sergio Garcia, who bogeyed the final hole to sign for a 71 on Saturday.
Westy v Bryson – the ‘rematch’
Westwood has not won on the PGA Tour since June 2010 at the St. Jude Classic, during a run of form that saw him become the world’s number one golfer.
After finishing second at Bay Hill last week, the veteran is well placed to end that drought and continue a hot streak that began last year, claiming the European Tour’s order of merit title for the third time in December to become the oldest Race to Dubai champion.
The Englishman, who has won 44 professional tournaments, may be turning 48 next month but he is starting to forge an unlikely rivalry with the big-hitting DeChambeau, a player 20 years his junior.
Despite their contrasting styles, the pair will go head-to-head on the PGA Tour for the second week in a row when they head out in Sunday’s final group in Florida.
“It’s like the rematch,” smiled Westwood. “That will be fun. I like playing with Bryson, he is a breath of fresh air.
“I have always tried to have fun, but it is easier now – I don’t allow the game of golf to affect me mentally anymore.”
Westwood began the day one clear and had chances to increase his lead on the front nine but several birdie opportunities failed to drop.
With Thomas, Casey, DeChambeau and Ghim all making moves, Westwood found his range after the turn and birdies at 10 and 11 kept him at the top of the leaderboard.
DeChambeau continued his recent form as he moved to five under for the day after 12 holes, showcasing his touch around the green, before leaving a bunker shot short at the 14th and carding his only bogey of the day.
The US Open champion, who said he tweaked his swing overnight, responded with a well-made birdie at 16 and was relieved to trickle in a par on the last.
“I am absolutely happy, this was the best ball-striking day I have had all week,” said DeChambeau. “I came out here with a fresh idea and it worked, it was awesome.
“I love it, Westy is a fierce competitor and I look forward to the challenge again with him.”
With DeChambeau back in the clubhouse, Westwood birdied the par-five 16th and rolled in another at the dangerous par-three island hole 17th to card his second bogey-free round in succession.
Thomas finds form on day three
World number three Thomas flew out of the blocks with four successive birdies and recovered from a bogey at five by clawing another stroke back at seven.
The American carded successive birdies after the turn and then made a sensational eagle at the par-five 16th, tapping in from six inches after a wonderful approach.
“I’m excited. This is why I play. I’ve been working to get back in contention,” said Thomas after setting the clubhouse pace.
Spaniard Rahm is also nicely poised at nine under after six birdies on Saturday, with his only blemish coming at the par-four 10th.
England’s Casey, who eagled the par-five second, rescued a back nine that had featured three bogeys with his sixth birdie of the day at the last to also sit at nine under par.
“The birdie on 18 was important,” said Casey, who added: “I’ve seen the pin position on 17 for tomorrow. Watch it. It’s going to be carnage!”
One of the stories of this year’s Players Championship has been the emergence of Ghim, the 24-year-old American who was former amateur world number one.
The world number 257 briefly led on his own at Sawgrass but eventually finished three of the pace following a four-under 68.
Australian Cameron Smith carded a superb a seven-under 65 earlier in the day that leaves him six shots back, while world number one Dustin Johnson found the water at 17 during a one-over par round that leaves him level for the tournament.